A Helping Hand - Andrea Dawne
All day the single mother of eighteen-month old Clara had looked forward to bed time. Since daybreak, the child had been disagreeable and fussy. Nothing Jen did could placate her little one. Without success, she had repeatedly pleaded and bribed for the toddler’s cooperation.
Finally the clock struck 8:00 PM. “Bed time”, Jen said as she scooped up Clara and headed up the stairs to the toddler’s room. After completing the bedtime routine; a fresh diaper, a bottle of milk, and a story while cuddling in the rocker, Jen tucked Clara in. However, she instantly scrambled to her feet holding onto the side of the crib for support and began to cry. Wearily, Jen gave the youngster a big hug, and tucked her back into the blankets. “Good night, Sweetie, Mommy loves you,” she said gently while kissing and stroking the child’s head. Then she walked calmly out of the room.
Almost immediately after shutting the door Jen was stopped by the sound of crying. As she stood on the other side of the door listening to the wailing child, she was suddenly aggravated. Mentally she counted to ten and tried to calm down. After the day they’d had, all she wanted was for Clara to stop crying and go to sleep, so she could enjoy a few minutes of peace and quiet. Jen longed to go back downstairs, pour herself a drink and ignore her crying child, only she knew she couldn’t. She had never been able to walk away. This night was no different; there would be no relaxing until the child was safely asleep in her crib. Jen stood on the small landing of their tiny two-story house, staring at the closed door and listened to the crying. After a few minutes, she gave up and returned to soothe Clara.
The child would not be comforted. As soon as Jen laid her down she sprang back up. Clara wept louder and looked at her mother with pleading eyes. Speaking as calmly as she could, she said good night to the child and turned to walk away, this time leaving her standing at the side of the crib. After the door was closed the sobbing became increasingly louder. Standing there with her back pressed to the door, Jen was overcome by a sense of dread. Heat rose up inside her; she was overcome by a sense of panic. Her heart raced as she struggled to breathe. Her mind was exhausted, and her body ached. She craved peace.
Jen stormed back into the room, startling the child, and grabbed the side of the crib shaking it with all of the anger and defeat that had built up inside her. She screamed, “Go to sleep goddamnit, go to fucking sleep”.
Instantly the crying stopped. Clara, stunned, stared up at her mother, her eyes wet and full of fear. Jen stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her. Finally, the house was silent, but it wasn’t peaceful. Satisfied, Jen took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and began down the stairs. When her foot touched the third step she felt a hand on her back, high up between her shoulder blades, firm and forceful. The push was just enough to cause her to lose her footing and go sliding down the stairs but not tumbling. She was hurt, but not damaged. As Jen collected herself at the bottom of the stairs, she realized she had crossed a line; a feeling of shame overtook her. When the tears stopped, she stood up, and stared back up at the empty landing and simply said, “Thank You”.
Andrea Dawne has been writing for enjoyment off and on her entire adult life. Although she focuses on novels, she has enjoyed her first foray into flash fiction. This is her first published piece. She lives with her husband and children outside Chicago, Illinois.